American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Jensenland, Historical Timeline of the Search for the Northernmost Point of Land on Earth

  • Notes
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2004

Jensenland, historical timeline of the search for the northernmost point of land on Earth. Based on the results from the 1996 American Top Of The World Expedition (co-leaders Ken Zerbst and myself [editor’s note: this is the expedition mentioned by Dennis Schmitt in the previous report]) and the 2001 Return To The Top Of The World Expedition (co-leaders Theresa Baker, Ken Zerbst, and myself) as well as collaborative research with Hauge Andersson of the Danish Polar Centre and Willy Weng and Tony Higgins of the Department of Geological Mapping (GEUS) in Copenhagen, Denmark, a definitive timeline can be established regarding the search for the northernmost point of land on Earth.

From the early 1900s when American explorer Robert Peary visited what is now known as Cape Morris Jesup on the northernmost tip of Greenland, the Cape and Kaffeklubben Island— which lies approximately 35 km to the east—have been at the center of debate as to which lies farther north. In 1978, the Danish Geodetic Institute initiated a surveying expedition to finally determine which feature was the northernmost point of land on Earth.

July 28, 1978: Uffe Petersen, member of the Danish Geodetic Institute, discovered Oodaaq Island north of Kaffeklubben Island at 83 degrees 40'32.5" N - 30 degrees 40' 10.1" (by trigonometric survey).

1979: Two visits of Oodaaq Island occurred. These visits were the last confirmed sightings of Oodaaq Island at its coordinate positions.

July 7,1996: The 1996 American Top Of The World (ATOW) Expedition discovers a potential new island during their aerial recon of the region at 83 degrees 42' 11.0" N - 30 degrees 33' 14.0" (G.P.S. coordinates/military filter applied).

July 10, 1996: The 1996 ATOW Expedition, while conducting an on-ice search for Oodaaq Island discovers a new island at 83 degrees 40' 34.8" N - 30 degrees 38' 38.6" W. A second potential island was reached on the return to Kaffeklubben Island, approximately half way between Kaffeklubben Island and the island at 83 degrees 42' 11.0" N.

1997: Based on photographs from 1996 ATOW Expedition that appeared in the May, 1997 issue of LIFE Magazine, Rene Forsberg and the Danish KMS reaches by helicopter yet another new island at 83 degrees 40' 15.1" N - 30 degrees 30' 34.5" W (G.P.S. coordinates).

July 1998: The Euro American Expedition spots an island during an aerial recon that lies approximately 3.75 km. north of Kaffeklubben Island (no G.P.S. coordinates were taken of this sighting).

May/June, 2001: Collaborative research by Andersson, Higgins, Weng, and the 2001 Return To The Top Of The World (RTOW) Expedition verifies that the 1978 Oodaaq Island, the 1996 ATOW Island, and the 1997 KMS Island are three separate, unique islands with the 1996 ATOW Island being the farthest north of the three.

July 13, 2001: Hauge Andersson of the Danish Polar Center accompanies the 2001 RTOW Expedition on a joint aerial reconnaissance that finds no evidence of the 1978 Oodaaq Island. A potential new island was noted at 83 degrees 41' 06" N - 30 degrees 45' 36" W during the recon.

July 6, 2003: The 2003 EuroAmerican Expedition visits probably the same island identified from the July 7,1996 aerial recon and the 1998 aerial recon. This island, located at the 83 degrees 42' 05" N - 30 degrees 38' 49"W (G.P.S. coordinates/no military filter), is the fourth “new” island north of the pronounced Kaffeklubben Island since the original discovery of Oodaaq Island in 1978.

Members of the 1996 ATOW Expedition were Ken Zerbst, Theresa Baker, Steve Gardiner, Jim Schaefer, Galen Rowell, Joe Sears, Bob Palais, Peter Skafte, Dennis Schmitt, and John Jancik. Members of the 2001 RTOW Expedition were Zerbst, Baker, Gardiner, Schaefer, Sears, Jancik, Vernon Tejas, Jim McCrain, and David Baker.

Clarification: The 1996 ATOW Expedition made the first ever exploration into the easternmost mountain range in North Peary Land. This set of mountains and glaciers, called the Daly Range, were visited starting on July 20,1996 during which two first ascents in the western half of the range were made.

The 2001 RTOW Expedition mapped 14 peaks and recorded their G.P.S. summit locations, neighboring saddles, and all respective altitudes. A 1998 expedition had claimed the northernmost mountain on Earth (AAJ 1999) without conducting an exploration of Cape Christian IV, where four peaks of similar latitude to summits located on the east side of Sands Fjord are located. My teammates and I undertook an exhaustive documented field program to definitely determine the northernmost mountain on Earth. Our results are published in the AAJ 2002 and the book Under The Midnight Sun, as well as submitted to the Department of Geological Mapping (GEUS) in Copenhagen, Denmark.

John Jancik

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